We’ve been thrilled to have photographer-reporter Andrea Nay join “Team Freaky” this past week, providing her on-the-ground reports from the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati. Here’s her final wrap up, along with some great photos – like the one of F-Lo and Verdasco, above. Check out more of Andrea’s photos from Cincy here. Enjoy! – FF
By Andrea Nay in Cincinnati
This week’s Western & Southern Open was a tournament with an identity crisis.
Center Court was so star-studded during the combined event that the eventual men’s champion, Andy Murray, was relegated to side courts until the semis. Friday delivered one of the most exciting single day line-ups in recent memory, with matches featuring seven of the top eight ATP players, WTA stars Maria Sharapova, Vera Zvonareva, and Jelena Jankovic, and a Bryan Brothers nightcap. Serena Williams even showed up, albeit briefly. Celebrities Gavin Rossdale and Rory McIlory decorated player boxes.
The week was also marred by an injury plague. Clijsters was out before it began with a strained abdominal muscle. Mid-week withdrawals abounded: Serena Williams’ toe flared, Shuai Peng’s hip ached, and sore shoulders sidetracked Tomas Berdych and Agnieszka Radwanska. Even the players who remained on the court looked pained. Rafa Nadal’s fingers burned, Mardy Fish moved gingerly on a sore heel throughout his loss to Murray, and Gaël Monfils had a nasty encounter with a TV camera. The most glaring injury of all? Novak Djokovic quit the finals in the second set with shoulder pain, leaving Murray holding the trophy. What’s in the public water supply in Mason?
Other high and low-lights:
Although he lost in the quarters and certainly isn’t playing his best tennis, Nadal’s effort this week was nothing short of extraordinary. After playing a 3:40 grinder against countryman Fernando Verdasco during the hottest part of the day in southwestern Ohio’s notorious humidity, Rafa took a quick break and returned to the court to play doubles with Marc Lopez. In the next day’s early session, he battled in full sun against Fish, losing 6-3, 6-4. Nadal knocked out four matches in three days while suffering from a new injury: burnt fingers. On Monday night, he touched a “very, very hot” plate while dining at an area restaurant, then wore significant bandages on his right index and middle fingers the remainder of the week. Did it hurt in matches? “If you see the blister, you can imagine,” he said. “I don’t going to show you now.” He later added, “When I am serving, to put the ball at the right place, it’s not easy for me. ”
Most Exhilarating to Watch
Gaël Monfils remains the most exciting player to watch live, and fans at Friday night’s match-up with Djokovic deemed Monfils the Michael Jordan of tennis. Not for the number of titles just yet, but for his aerial acrobatics, Safinesque reactions to poor shot choices and bad calls, and sheer grit. After barreling horrifically into a TV camera stand in the first set, Monfils writhed in pain, shook it off, and went on to win both the game and eventually the set.
Worst PR Fail
Serena Williams showed up for her first round match, then bowed out of the tournament on Wednesday with a sore toe. “If anything, this might be a blessing in disguise,” she said. “I might get some more rest.” Moments later, Williams was photographed riding the Diamondback roller coaster at Kings Island amusement park nearby. The next night, she Tweeted photos of herself in Los Angeles at friend LaLa’s Full Court Life Premiere Party. Any bets she wore heels to the party?
A single bright yellow Aston-Martin was the talk of the tournament. Its owners gave the $200,000+ car a makeover in time for the tournament: bright yellow paint with “Vamos Rafa” along the sides in black and a Spanish flag atop the hood. Later in the week, Nadal was asked about the car (featured above) in a presser. “The yellow Aston Martin is not in the parking lot anymore,” noted a reporter. Without skipping a beat, Rafa replied, “I bought.” Really? “No,” he laughed. “I met them. Honor meet a great fan like like this, because to have an Aston Martin like this you must be a really big fan.”
Honorable mention to the ladies toting the third-generation “Quiet, Please. Genius at Work” banner for Federer.
Tie between Andy Roddick and Maria Sharapova.
Asked about his penalty for blasting a ball into the stadium Monday night, Roddick quipped: “We wonder why we lose our ratings battles to the WWF Monday Night Raw. . . . John McEnroe, the guy is still getting endorsements because he was allowed to throw shit. ”
Sharapova was asked whether she planned revenge for Djokovic’s parody of her: “I don’t think he had the right shade of blonde . . . I think he exaggerated that, among other things. But it’s fun. . . . All I can say is it’s on like Donkey Kong.”
A special mention goes to Andrea Petkovic, who talks with her hands more than all other players combined. Her enthusiasm is a refreshing addition to the normally predictable press room.
Best Off Court Story
Jelena Jankovic ran out of gas this week. Literally. “On our way to the site, we were driving, me and my coach and my mom and my sparring [partner], and all of a sudden she was supposed to turn on the highway and then the car completely stopped,” Jankovic told reporters. “Then my mom was like, ‘Oh, this car is not working.’ We were like, ‘What do you mean it’s not working?’ It just stopped. It’s not working. Something is wrong with it. We looked, and it was zero gas inside the car. I was like, ‘Oh, my God. Great. I have 20 minutes before my practice session.'” Did they call for help? Nope. “You know, luckily the gas station was like, you know, two minutes’ walk,” said Jankovic. “So me and my coach ran out to the gas station and bought that thing, that gallon that you put — that you fill up.” Mason residents: next time you see a wayward tennis player along the side of the road, pull over and help the girl out.
Most Comprehensive Presser Answer
Speaking of the Maestro, Federer takes top honors for the single most interesting answer in the press room. He was asked very simply what he takes away culture-wise from five weeks spent in the U.S. every summer. His answer, in its entirety:
“Well, I don’t watch the reality shows a whole lot. To be honest, I don’t watch as much TV here. Maybe it’s just in the last few years since I’ve had my kids. Life has changed a bit. But, you know, I’ve always been interested in more geographics, you know, knowing more about the cities I’m in, you know, all the states. I’m still trying to get all the states right and stuff. It’s hard. I’m telling you, it’s like, ‘Tell me all the European countries out there.’ I couldn’t tell you. It’s tricky, and I’ve been to not all the States here in this country. And then obviously I did follow the presidential race with Obama, for instance, quite closely, because this time around I thought I was old enough and interested enough; whereas the last time I just heard it somewhat and I couldn’t believe the length of it and the brutality of it, you know. So felt like every president should be extremely tired becoming the president, you know, and this is actually when the job starts. So it’s pretty fascinating to watch, I’m definitely going to follow it the next time around the same thing again.”
Okay, then. Roger, next year we expect you to be able to spell Mississippi and name all fifty state capitals.
Mother Nature: A Draw
Dear Mama Weather: players and fans alike are grateful that you kept the highs under 90 this week. We spotted a spectator in a sweater (a sweater!) during Roddick’s match Monday night. On the other hand, this untimely cool front resulted in a gallery with zero (count ’em) shirtless shots. Given that Cincinnati is world-famous for its simmering hot practice photos, we’re a little sad. Next year, let’s go with 95 degrees and sunny on Monday and Tuesday while all the ATP’s finest abs are on display, then cool it back down to 70’s and slightly overcast for pleasant matches the rest of the week. Thanks in advance. (And thanks to Andrea, for the hot photo of Juan Monaco, above – FF)
Andrea Nay is a freelance photojournalist based in Western Ohio. Although she lost part of her tennis soul when Safin retired, she now has more time to capture artistic shots of the rest of the ATP and WTA Tours. Find more of her work at AndreaNay.com.